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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperDesignLevel Design Workshop - #3 Structural Atmosphere
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Author Topic: Level Design Workshop - #3 Structural Atmosphere  (Read 56202 times)
Zaratustra
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« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2010, 09:51:05 AM »

I may be in.
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Dustin Smith
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« Reply #21 on: July 07, 2010, 10:14:50 AM »

Level design is the one thing keeping me from finishing a project of mine; I know enough theory but my hands are still shamefully clean. This, along with a pledge to enter more short-form compos, should get me headed in the right direction.

Auntie Pixelante has level design lessons on her site; maybe we could do some round-table disscusions (via IRC or a forum thread) where we talk about the underlying aspects of the levels of a couple games? Perhaps a 'homework' assignment where we all play a game and write any notes we have about it? Just throwin' it out there.
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #22 on: July 07, 2010, 11:25:46 AM »

Oh, wow, what have I created?  Shocked

This is now either going to be completely awesome or highly embarrasing.  Doing some ground work for the first exercise at the moment, still planning to unleash it (for better or worse) tomorrow.

Auntie Pixelante has level design lessons on her site;

Yep, they're great Smiley

maybe we could do some round-table disscusions (via IRC or a forum thread) where we talk about the underlying aspects of the levels of a couple games? Perhaps a 'homework' assignment where we all play a game and write any notes we have about it? Just throwin' it out there.

I'd be very up for doing that, whilst I'd usually lean towards IRC for such things, the difficulties involved in getting everyone together at the same time might be too much to be worthwhile.  Once we're underway a 'required reading' splinter thread (the exercises kind of already are the homework) would be fantastic.  If anyone has some awesome ideas for games to include (remembering of course that we're focusing entirely on the level design here) suggest away Smiley
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Nitro Crate
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« Reply #23 on: July 07, 2010, 11:34:20 AM »

I am totally in!

My mate and I have been wanting to make something over the summer and level design is definitely something I've been worried about.
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PsySal
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« Reply #24 on: July 07, 2010, 11:38:12 AM »

I'm in! This is definitely needed, I struggle with level design a lot.
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Perrin
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« Reply #25 on: July 07, 2010, 02:45:11 PM »

I'm in for this, very unhappy with my level design skills and very jealous of Jonathan's really awesome designs. ^_^ Need to improve!
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Melly
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« Reply #26 on: July 07, 2010, 03:28:31 PM »

I commend this initiative. Let me know if I can be of aid.
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Feel free to disregard the above.
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Draknek
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« Reply #27 on: July 07, 2010, 03:38:13 PM »

Auntie Pixelante has level design lessons on her site
I hadn't read all of these before, good stuff

[They are here: http://www.auntiepixelante.com/?cat=6]
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NiallM
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« Reply #28 on: July 07, 2010, 11:36:40 PM »

I'm in.  This sounds really useful.
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Noel Berry
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« Reply #29 on: July 08, 2010, 11:46:02 AM »

Definitely interested. Sounds like fun. Grin
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 12:06:02 PM by Noel » Logged

Tuba
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« Reply #30 on: July 08, 2010, 12:47:33 PM »

Sure, why not?  Gentleman
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #31 on: July 08, 2010, 01:21:04 PM »

Okay, let's begin..

Exercise 1: Minature Sokoban

Level design as an activity can be considered to be primarily about building bigger structures from smaller ideas.  From the base elements of the world (floor, wall, space, mechanics) you can build little sections, the little sections build up to screens, and the screens build up to levels.  For the first exercise I think we should concentrate on the 'little sections'.

What I mean by 'little sections' varies a lot game-to-game, or genre-to-genre.  In a platform game a section would be a single jump over a pit, or a short encounter with an enemy.  In a 'classic' scrolling-shooter it would be a solitary chain of enemies.  In a puzzle game it is an individual problem that must be solved along the way.

Concentrating on the atomic elements of level design opens us up to the full range of possibilities that the games mechanics allow.  By deconstucting the game we gain a solid base that we can work from.  It's also a great acid test to check that the games mechanics are interesting and/or fun.  In other words it's a pretty great place to start.

Sokoban?

This week, and assuming it goes well, the next will be based on Sokoban.  I've chosen this game because:

  • It has very simple mechanics.
  • You are probably familiar with it.
  • I think there's a good chance you've not made levels for it before.

In case you aren't familiar with sokoban the basic concept is you need to move every boulder in each puzzle to a goal square.  Typicaly there's one and only one goal square per boulder.  The puzzles come from the difficulty of navigating the player into the right positions to move the boulders towards the goal.



There's plenty of other info online a search away if you need to know more.

The Task

Okay, so the actual task.  We should each try and create a set (aim for 10ish) of really tiny sokoban levels.  In each aim and make the puzzle contained as self-contained as possible, and try to cut out absolutely every bit that isn't strictly required.

To get across just how simple to start things this is my first 'puzzle' of my set.

Whilst each puzzle should be as simple as possible they should also be distinct.  Each puzzle should have a different solution to the others.  They'll probably get a bit more complicated as they go on, and that's fine, but try and get the most basic pieces nailed first.

What to make them in?

I've put together a little flash game/editor that you can use (but don't feel oblidged to, there's plenty of other sokoban implementations out there that allow custom levels).

http://jonathanwhiting.com/coding/ldw/sokoban.swf

There is a tile palette at the bottom to select tiles, you can also use number keys.  Click in the main area to place tiles.  In the bottom right there are two buttons, the left hand toggles between editing and testing, the right hand puts a url containing the level into the clipboard, so you can paste it somewhere, like here.  Though I'd probably recommend posting them all at once, rather than one at a time or it might get a bit spammy in here.

Credit where it's due..

I got the idea of minature sokoban levels from David W. Skinner's excellent Microban sets.  It's probably best if you don't check them out until you're done with the exercise though, I think there's a lot of value in going through the steps yourself.  For the same reason I'm not going to share my set just yet.

Anyway, I hope you all get on with it okay, and hopefully get something out of it too.  Do yell if there's anything unclear, my flash tool is confusing/rubbish or whatever else.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what you all come up with  Smiley Hand Thumbs Up Right
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Captain_404
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« Reply #32 on: July 08, 2010, 02:31:04 PM »

It would be nice if the game looked to see whether you have added more blocks than goals or goals than blocks and adjusted the win condition accordingly.
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Draknek
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« Reply #33 on: July 08, 2010, 04:22:16 PM »

Ah cool. I made a Sokoban variant (with like four levels) for the most recent Ludum Dare, it's been on my list of "old games I want to go back and make levels for but really who has the time to make levels when there are all these new games to work on". Possibly I need a shorter name for that list...
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Nitro Crate
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« Reply #34 on: July 08, 2010, 06:17:54 PM »

Gave it another go! The difficulty ramps up a lot more quickly in this one, but now there's only six levels.  Embarrassed
I'll get around to making at least two more...maybe..
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
Level 6

Quote from: Old Post
As much as I'd like to pretend I know what I'm doing, I'm pretty haphazard when it comes to level design.

All 'intended design' is pretty much just me justifying why i put a random block at point A instead of point B.

Anywho, here is my set of eight. (I know I didn't make it to 10, but I lost all sense of difficulty curve once I got to like level 4.)

Level 1 Old
Level 2 Old (Same as level 1 new)
Level 3 Old
Level 4 Old
Level 5 Old
Level 6 Old
Level 7 Old (Same as level 5 new)
Level 8 Old (Same as level 6 new)

Edit: I'm going to go back to this and modify levels 3 - 6 when I can. I'm highly unsatisfied with them.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2010, 06:12:19 PM by Nitro Crate » Logged
baconman
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« Reply #35 on: July 08, 2010, 07:06:45 PM »

Bacon 1  Smiley

Bacon 2

Bacon 3  Wink

Bacon 4

Bacon 5

Bacon 6  Tongue

Bacon 7

Bacon 8  WTF

Bacon 9

Bacon 10  Evil


Nitro: You're a good puzzle designer. L's 7/8 have some particularly good juxtaposition to work around.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 07:41:11 PM by baconman » Logged

Almost
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« Reply #36 on: July 08, 2010, 08:10:51 PM »

Skipping the easy levels (actually, I'm just lazy and don't feel like making 10 right now)

Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten
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Captain_404
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« Reply #37 on: July 08, 2010, 09:10:58 PM »

zero!
one!
two!
three!
four!
five!
six!
seven!
eight!
nine!

I wanted to make something where knowledge of previous levels would cause you to be a little reckless subconsciously and make mistakes in the later levels.



I went through some people's levels and I've got some comments to give, but I forgot which comments go to which, so I'll just come back later when my brain isn't tired of sokoban.
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Noel Berry
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« Reply #38 on: July 08, 2010, 09:40:30 PM »

@Captain 404: Woah, level 9 is really tough (I only played level 8 and 9 though) Took me like 10+ tries to get it.
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Jonathan Whiting
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« Reply #39 on: July 08, 2010, 09:46:43 PM »

NB: As a note on criticism generally, as we're all trying to learn and improve our craft criticism is very important.  Providing quality critique is at least as useful for learning as recieving it, so try and do some.  To be most effective it needs to be honest, verging on brutal, so I won't pull any punches, and nor should you.  Just try not to take it too personally Wink

Anywho, here is my set of eight. (I know I didn't make it to 10, but I lost all sense of difficulty curve once I got to like level 4.)

These are really good.

Level 4 can be reduced a little without losing anything intrinsic, as can 5, 6 and 8 if you want a further challenge.  None of them are seriously bloated though.

Levels 7 and 8 and are are great examples of how complex a puzzle can be within a tiny space.

Baconman:

Your set has a lot of room for reduction.  For instance the core puzzle of level 6 is great, but it can fit in a fraction of the space.

I'm pretty sure if you went back through and stripped your levels right back (removing places where you repeat one solution multiple times) you'd also find that a lot of your levels are pretty much intrinsically the same.  The ones that aren't involve needless amounts of tracking about that don't actually add to the puzzle bit much.

I like that you're thinking about how the levels look, and using interesting patterns/symmetry.  Such things are most worthwhile though once you've already got the  basics down (which is why I wanted to focus on minature level design in the first place).

Skipping the easy levels (actually, I'm just lazy and don't feel like making 10 right now)

tut tut, the early levels are important!

8 is a bit weak, it takes very little time to realise that most of the boulders are irrelevant.  10 appears to be more an attempt to trick the player than provide an interesting puzzle (moves like this should not be attempted lightly, few people enjoy them).

7 and 9 are good though, and have much less room for reduction than it initially appears.

Captain_404:

Just because two! is possible doesn't make it right.

6 is fantastic, 8 and 9 too.  A lot of your other levels are a bit flabby, and would benefit from some time spent working out what the core elements of the levels are, and cutting around them to reach their essence.

You certainly did a pretty good job with the psychological aspects, I was completely convinced 9 was impossible for a little while.
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